Friday, December 31, 2010

UK will NOT hit its target to cut immigration in 2011, coalition warned

Immigration to Britain is ‘unlikely’ to fall significantly next year because of the parlous state of the Eurozone, a leading think-tank warns today. Plans to impose a cap and gradually bring down migration levels will falter because there is nothing the Government can do to stop workers from the EU coming to Britain, it says.

The Institute for Public Policy Research adds that the effect will be amplified as restrictions on some eastern European workers end next year. As a result, net migration is unlikely to fall much below 200,000 in 2011 – about the same annual level it has been for much of the last decade, the IPPR concludes. This runs counter to the Government’s pledge to restrict immigration from ‘hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands’.

Since January 2007, workers from the newest EU countries, Bulgaria and Romania, have largely needed to apply for work permits to work in the UK. That restriction is due to be lifted in December 2011, meaning that thousands more could be tempted to move to take advantage of the relatively healthy British economy.

Around 120,000 Irish people are expected to leave the Republic’s crisis-hit economy in 2010 and 2011, with many likely to head to Britain where there is no language barrier or work restrictions.

Migration could even increase if more people from other economically troubled countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece choose to move to Britain. They do not come under the annual cap which will be introduced in April. Meanwhile fewer Britons are moving abroad. The exodus of UK citizens fell sharply to just over 30,000 in the year to March 2010.

This compared with 130,000 in the year to March 2008. Countries favoured by British sun-lovers, such as Spain and the United Arab Emirates, were wiped out economically, making them less attractive destinations for jobseekers. The weak pound has also made it too expensive for many pensioners and students to move abroad.

But universities have been trying to attract higher numbers of foreign students, with the number of study-related visas expected to top 300,000 in 2011. Prime Minister David Cameron even boasted on a recent trip to China that fees for foreign students would come down, even though fees for British students are almost trebling.

Ministers have since said they would stem foreign student numbers for fear that many are overstaying their visas, but the changes are not likely to be in place to make a difference next year.

And workers from eastern Europe are continuing to move to Britain in large numbers. Newcomers from Lithuania and Latvia alone increased from 25,000 to 40,000 in the last year.

Requirements for workers from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia to register will also be scrapped from April 2011.

Home Secretary Theresa May has imposed a cap on non-EU economic migrants. From April, no more than 21,700 will be able to come to Britain. But Nick Pearce, director of the IPPR, said this would barely make a dent on overall immigration levels. He said: ‘IPPR analysis suggests a sharp drop in immigration is unlikely to happen in 2011 on current trends, so ministers must be careful to manage down public expectations.

‘The cap on skilled migration from outside the EU, which the Government has already put in place, could hurt the economic recovery. Other hasty measures to reduce numbers artificially would be even more damaging.’ He added: ‘Bringing down the level of immigration, which has been high in recent years, is a legitimate policy goal. But this should be done by making long-term and sustainable reforms to the structure of our economy and labour market.’

The report comes as a survey showed that immigration topped the list of concerns for British voters. In May 2009, 39 per cent of Britons said that immigration was one of their top three concerns. By September 2010, this had risen to 43 per cent.

In America, just 26 per cent listed immigration as one of their top three concerns, while in Sweden only 10 per cent found it a pressing issue.


Kansas likely to crack down on illegal immigration

Kansas legislators expect next year to join the growing list of states trying to keep illegal immigrants out and to discourage businesses from hiring them. One of the top legal minds in that movement is about to take office as Kansas' secretary of state, and he said he's ready to advise lawmakers.

But strong opposition is expected from the state's business community, particularly the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Gov.-elect Sam Brownback also is cool to sweeping immigration proposals, preferring to focus on the state's budget woes and creating jobs.

The chamber's resistance creates an odd political dynamic in a Republican-leaning state with large GOP majorities in its Legislature and, soon, no Democrats in statewide elective office. Some legislators advocating the low-tax, small-government agenda favored by the chamber will be fighting the state's largest business group on immigration.

So far, the state chamber has prevailed. But advocates of get-tough measures like those instituted in Arizona believe they're tapping into national frustration with federal inaction and expect pressure to build on the Legislature after it opens its annual session and Brownback is sworn in Jan. 10.

"A few interest groups who are plugged into the legislative process can derail something," said Secretary of State-elect Kris Kobach, a law professor on leave who's gained national attention for working on immigration issues with legislators in other states. "But ultimately, I think you find that, in end, if the people of a state really want a statute, it eventually happens."

The Kansas Chamber has focused its opposition on proposals requiring employers to verify that workers are in the U.S. legally and fining companies or taking away their licenses if they hire illegal immigrants.

Chamber officials argue those laws can impose draconian punishments for unintentional mistakes. Kent Beisner, the Kansas Chamber's president and chief executive officer, also said if Kansas enacts rules and other states don't, Kansas will find it harder to attract and keep businesses. "We want to be as competitive as we can be," Beisner said.

Many legislators saw the chamber as a big reason why Kansas' last attempt to enact a sweeping immigration law that included penalties for employers failed in 2008. The House and Senate were negotiating a final version but couldn't agree.

"There were at least a number of business interests that simply did not want to see any meaningful immigration reform bill that dealt with the employment issue," said state Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican who helped lead the push in 2008.

The nonprofit, Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 65,000 immigrants in Kansas were among the 11.1 million in the U.S. illegally in 2009. The center also estimates that 50,000 Kansas workers, about 3 percent of the total, are illegal immigrants. It says the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has dropped in the past few years.

State legislators nationwide have grown less willing to wait on the federal government to address the issue. The National Conference of State Legislatures said that in the first half of 2010, state lawmakers considered almost 1,400 immigration proposals — four times as many as five years ago.

Kobach helped write this year's law in Arizona empowering police to question anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, a policy some Kansas lawmakers hope to enact in their state. He also was involved in drafting a 2008 Missouri law that penalizes businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

Kinzer said he and other legislators are interested in not only those measures, but also repealing a state law that gives some illegal immigrants a break on tuition at state universities and colleges. And Kobach campaigned successfully on a promise that he'll seek a law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls and proof of citizenship when they register to vote for the first time in a new place.

Groups providing services and advocating for immigrants worry about how such proposals would hurt families with some members in the U.S. legally and others illegally. They argue legislators would do better to provide immigrants with help in gaining citizenship. "We have short-term memories about the contributions of immigrants to this country," said Mary Lou Jaramillo, president and CEO of El Centro Inc., a Kansas City, Kan.-based social service and advocacy group.

Brownback has endorsed Kobach's voter ID and proof-of-citizenship. But he said other immigration measures adopted elsewhere are still being challenged in court. "I don't think we should be going at it — going at those areas that are in the middle of litigation," he said during a recent interview

Meanwhile, the chamber's resistance is important because it's a major player in state politics. The chamber and its political action committee have reported spending more than $1.1 million on lobbying and campaign-related activities in the past six years.

One vice president and lobbyist, Jeff Glendening, is a former member of the state House majority leader's staff. A former lobbyist, Rachelle Colombo, left the House majority leader's staff to join the chamber and then earlier this month became chief of staff to House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican.

And, of course, lawmakers have listened to its arguments in the past. "Immigration should be resolved at the federal level," Beisner said. "It hasn't been addressed there, and I think that's where it needs to be addressed."


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